Women in Private sector businesses, what do we need?

Last year, I attended the Women in Construction dinner. You guessed right, women shared stories of struggle to belong, get business or just get the right to sit on the table in big construction business.

The stories went on and on but there were success stories of women who started from the trenches and hacked it somehow.  Just like in normal business, for every successful one, there are several that tried and couldn’t survive the first year.

For the construction industry, getting to sit on the table is far more important to ensure you get the business. For instance, if one was to construct, they go to an architect who is also the project manager, who brings all the other teams; the contractor, electrical and mechanical engineer, structural engineer, quantity surveyor and the telecoms engineers among others. If you are on the architect’s radar, then they will consult you when drawing the bill of quantities and the designs, which means that if the project goes through, then you get it. Those are just details but important nevertheless.

In that dinner, there was a government rep that said that women owned companies should get work of clearing bushes in road projects. He got booed with people wondering whether women can’t handle big engineering stuff. For me, even clearing bushes is a great start and you need low level education and that sector is dying to get something to do.

These stories can be heard from the 27 percent women owned businesses in Sub Saharan Africa and across the globe. You can read more global stats from this World Bank Post.

That was last year.

Last month, the Connected Government Summit had a Fireside Chat on women and I had a chance to congratulate Eunice Kariuki on this development because it was time we started this conversation in tech. There is need for more tech business owners and if there is a way more women can get in, the better.

There is no dispute that growing women in business increases employment and women are known to be better managers. You can read some insights on how and who supports women in business.

For the women in tech, there is need to get beyond the text book and learn from the men;

  1. Support each other– men will meet over drinks and will discuss upcoming projects and in the process will explain procedures on what to do to get it. Doesn’t mean you will get it but there is insider information, which is key. Some of the insider info helps in determining to move on because the project is taken.
  2. Not all support or help amounts to corruption. Yes, women in leadership positions like to pontificate a lot but I wish there is a course on what help amounts to holding my hand and what amounts to corruption. For some, even advising you on procedure on what to do or what makes you fail in tenders is frowned upon. Maybe you don’t have this or that certification, but they won’t even say that. For the men, they will gladly tell you.
  3. Having women as mentors. Once in a while, I like to sit on the feet of some who have made it in the business and seek knowledge. Tow months ago, I got very vital advise that changed my two year business strategy. I mean real advise on real cases. This helps businesses grow. Of course, women must also realise who can or can’t help; some can’t mentor you because they want to always be the only ones and will step on your head just to rise above you. That is life.
  4. Progress the debate. I think we need to move to the next level and think what else we can do apart from talk. We need to do or find strategies to get it done.

In short, we need more women in the private sector business and we definitely need to prop each other. I think I have been lucky to get a lot of support from women older than me in both informal and formal sectors.

This matter is so important that McKinsey has a quarterly report, you can find it here.




Oracle, Dimension Data, govt contracts and the great wall of silence

For those who have been following the tech sector closely, you will know that there is a lot of money floating around for big projects. The only challenge is that very few projects go to local companies; you can cite the common excuses given, lack of capacity, financial backing, etc

This means that most of these projects are deployed by big international corporations. One of the contract requirements is that these companies must transfer skills etc etc… we all know how it goes.


Let us take the example of IFMIS I wonder how many people remember what exactly it does. Well, read it here . This project is using Oracle. Apparently government paid for 14 modules and only three or four have been implemented. The project started in 1998.

Apart from that, it is said that the government has spent about Ksh 100 million on Oracle licenses across the various government ministries. Just calculate the amount of money paid in licenses annually.

That is why, in my estimation, the greatest winner in the whole government digitisation favours Oracle because the government can not afford to vote away from the investment.

So, is Oracle happy at the continued support that it will receive from government going forward? I caught up with Gilbert Saggia, head of Oracle in Kenya and asked for just five minutes.

“I can not talk in the absence of my PR person, maybe we can do this tomorrow?”

Well, companies have rules and regulations but I haven’t seen him or got a reply to my email, so we assume that was the answer he wanted me to have.

Dimension Data

Three years ago, Dimension Data won the tender to implement Unified Communications within government. It is a way for government to stop using landlines and reduce the communication costs.

I have not gotten the actual costs, some people privy to the tender say it was $16 million while others insist it was about $30 million. Take your pick.

I tried to get a response from Dimension Data and this is what I got.



ICTA position

I asked Victor Kyalo, ICTA CEO, on why the DD project had to take so long and he explained that political changes, building preparedness etc meant that only two government ministries are interconnected.

The project is expected to be completed soon 🙂

My question

Why do international companies decline to answer questions on these tenders? Is it:

a) That because government is a client, they have to be the ones to comment, so who are you to comment? Thats if you want more biz.

b) The companies do not want to be associated with failed/stalled/lengthy (insert yours) ongoing projects?

c) They are there for the money and do not care whatever happens to the project, they sold whatever they were selling, they earn from annual support and licenses and anything you would like to ask is none of their business.

It is what it is 🙂

Of Journalists, press conference and political pressure

Yesterday, the first day of Connected Summit, there was a press conference attended by Info Com PS Joseph Tiampati, ICTA CEO Victor Kyalo, Andrew Waititu, SAP CEO and Edwin Yinda, ICTA Board chair.

This was a routine press conference. If anything, the CS had not arrived and it looked like the only big story would be the affirmation and details of a previous announcement by Deputy President William Ruto that Kenya will have third generation ID cards.

The journalists went on with the usual questions and one sought clarification on the actual cost, Tiampati clearly indicated that the cost would range from 5 to 8 billion Kenya shillings, this was on record, tv, radio etc.

Just like it was a routing press conference, this was a routine story.

Well, that was until Capital Fm was the first to run the story, on radio, online and through text service. That was the time the political pressure kicked in. Apparently, the figures were discussed in a closed door meeting and Tiampati was not supposed to disclose.

And Ruto/his office/his handlers were pissed!

Calls started going into newsroom bosses, demanding a correction, even before the story ran. The issue was that the figures were wrong, it will not cost that much, etc… For the journalists on the ground, they could only stand their ground because there is no way ten journalists with radio and TV clips can be wrong.

In retrospect, you can understand Tiampati, he is the technical guy, he probably sat in those meetings that decided on these figures. He probably has not been briefed on how to doge journalists questions and saturate press conferences with philosophical and abstract BS.

For tech journalists looking for stories, this is the guy to talk to….he will give you a story 🙂 probably anytime 🙂

Anyway, it was a nice last minute run around for the guys handling PR for Connected Summit.

Here is the correction/clarification sent late in the evening.

“Government to begin digitization of all persons

 The National Digital Registration Exercise targets to establish clean data set registers for all people, establishments, land and assets.

The entire exercise covering all the four data sets budget will be firmed up as soon as design and logistics are finalized (this is still work in progress).

The people registry which is the immediate exercise will target to clean up especially the 0-17 years old records. Details to be captured for those between 12 and above will be to ensure clean data for planning and socio-economic use.

This will be across all the different data users in Government and the private sector who rely on data for their operations.  Effectively through economies of scale this will lead to lower costs and efficiencies across the board.”


ICT Authority to have a desk for ICT related work permits

For the last year or so, the immigration officials have been camping at “tech start up” hotspots, seeking to weed out illegal workers or in other words those with no work permits.

This has been frustrating to “expats” who have maintained that Kenya has no tech capacity etc. I am sure you have read stories of how people can not find appropriate hardware such as key boards, mouse, etc in Kenya.

It seems Fred Matiangi, Info Comm Cabinet Secretary will give the expats a reprieve in the work permit application process.

Since Jane Waikenda took over at Nyayo house, she had a policy of employing stringent measures especially in areas where such capacity is available locally. This didn’t go down well for some ICT companies bringing in unemployed westerners in droves as “expats”. Some have argued that they would move their corporate headquarters to South Sudan or  Congo, just to protest, well, maybe Tanzania or South Africa.

Anyway, Matiangi says he has had discussions with his interior ministry CS and now ICT work permit applications will be treated differently. The ICTA will participate in the process and there will be a desk where the applicants can be helped.

This helps in the transfer of skills 🙂

How are Kenyan Companies fairing at Connected?

Last year, I did a post on KITOS and its efforts to ensure Kenyan companies are involved in large government tenders?

Has this improved? Well, I see JTL Faiba is a sponsor this year, if you think Liquid Telecom in Kenya, and that is it.

Mike Macharia and SST were conspicuously missing from the programme, maybe to give opportunities to other local company CEOs.

Who knows what happened to KITOS?

I don’t think the story has changed from last year…..


Liquid Telecom Succeeds in providing milkshakes, fails in connectivity

Last year, I wrote this story of pathetic connectivity at the Connected Kenya Summit. The issue was; how can you have a conference talking about connectivity and one of the most touted regional company can not manage internet connectivity?

This year, Liquid Telecom decided to abandon its core business and succeed in the food and beverage department. While the wifi didn’t work from the word go in the morning, Liquid shakes were working very well and some internet-frustrated attendees enjoyed the milkshakes thoroughly.

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I am sure for some people, having no internet connectivity is good for concentration but you know what? we are so hooked that people switched to their mobile hotspots, which means that in a room of 400 people, there were probably 300 hotspots.

This resulted to Liquid Telecom blaming these little hotspots for the failure in their network set up. Apparently these little hotspots were clogging the network. This didn’t make sense.

I have attended the Mobile World Congress, which is attended by 100,000 people and each provider has their network and yet, the public wifi works very well. How does it work?

Anyway, I think Liquid had a problem with their network and for a company of their repute, I think we should have gotten a better excuse/reason.

Apparently, the organisers were promised an STM1 (155mbps) and Ben Roberts, Liquid CEO confirmed that they were pushing 170mbps which is huge.

The duties were also subdivided; Orange were providing online streaming and Liquid to handle the conference connectivity.

But the milkshakes worked well for all attendees….


Connected Kenya Summit makes prog. changes….

Last year was my first time at Connected Kenya and I wrote this post suggesting some changes. The best part is that the program this year has changed.

The program has been changed to include breakout sessions, it has different tracks, the speakers seem to be on topic and the projection seems to be working ok…….

But… how do we deal with death by powerpoint, do we change font, do we say presentations are on for 15 minutes or what do we do with those power points?

I was seated next to Sam Gichuru of Nailab and he was not impressed with the presentations, he thought much should change in the presentations area.

“The set up is brilliant, the tech is good, the process and venue is good but the content needs to be repackaged to reflect the dynamics of attendees, less powerpoint and more discussions beteween the presenters and the audience,” said Gichuru.

The bigger point is, we have Oracle, SAP, Dimension Data, Liquid Telecom, Orange etc as sponsors, how about we engage in discussions regarding implementation of projects and how to overcome strategies.

For instance, government paid for 14 Oracle modules in IFMIS, how comes only three have been implemented, or something like that. We can get powerpoint as attachments or via bluetooth and read and discuss between the speakers and delegates.

For better details, please read the year old post 🙂

Main lesson at Connected; Orange/Telkom Kenya, KDN, Fail to deliver

Orange and KDN were the data sponsors for the connected conference and guess what? The whole of day one had little or no connectivity. Why?

Orange probably has the largest connectivity in Kenya and KDN brags of the largest connectivity in the region but for some reason, this conference connectivity seemed to beat them.

The frustrations reminded me of the days Skunworks could host the annual bar camp and would have more than 100 computers connected at the same time and the network was good and at that time the providers were not as generous as as they are.

So, I ask again, two of Kenya’s largest ISPs, why cant they make it work?





Kenya’s Connected Summit Heavily Funded by International Tech Giants

This week, the talk is about Connected Kenya Summit. There are more than 400 private and public sector folks to discuss ways to improve Kenya. The summit has cost more than Ksh 50 million.

The ICT Board may not have raised the whole amount, maybe less than sh 8 million. The majority of the money is from sponsors. Look at the link on sponsors page of Connected Kenya, what do you see?

These are mostly international companies? How do they make money?

Last month, I asked the guys at IBM why they invest a lot of money in flying in senior execs into the country and paying them to provide free services to the government. Tony Mwai said that they invest in knowing the ecosystem and how people in government work.

I think if you talk to many of the international companies here, the investment will bear fruits. Next time there is a major tender, they will deal with people they know, they will probably be the guys that will design and draw the tender documents.

There are local companies sponsoring but you can see who dominates.

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Kenyan Tech Companies seek more involvement in govt projects

For the last five years, there has been a common chorus among local tech companies; they want more of the large government contracts. We all want a piece of that large cake.

Most of the money spent on government tech projects has gone to large corporations like Oracle, SAP, IBM etc. With the big budgetary requirements, many companies are locked out of these projects.

The talk of technology transfer has been on for so long but the international companies just set up local branches, poach the guys from the local companies and move on. Its a competitive environment and the options look minimal.

However, a group of so called local companies came together to lobby for more local business. The vehicle is KITOS. The members are; Seven Seas Technology Techno Brain, Digital Divide data, Cambridge, Craft Sillicon, Compulynx, XRX, SamaSource, Business Connection, Africa BPO Academy, and Adept Technology among others.

When you look at the companies that are members of KITOS, not all are local, indeed, I counted less than five companies that are local. They all want business and it doesnt matter whether local or international because even Dimension Data can claim to be local by virtue of buying ICL east Africa.

Anyway, here is a list of some of the things KITOS members feel can be done to improve inclusion into the big boys club or the big contracts club. I will just copy paste it because they have articulated their issues better.

“Kenya IT and Outsourcing Services (KITOS) – Connected KE Business Roundtable

Key Policy recommendations

KITOS Roundtable sitting in Mombasa has the following requests to the Jubilee government


Traditionally, procurement law has been designed to safeguard public interest from corruption, but has inadvertently become very punitive to local small business.  International and local companies compete on same level while in other markets, those countries  protect local businesses.  As a result, SMEs in IT and IT enabled industry have remained small, despite the fact that they contribute to creation and development of local human capita.  We therefore request that procurement law for state led procurement, donor led procurement and government to government procurement, provides preferential treatment for local companies including SMEs subject to certain threshold.  We therefore request that a mechanism be developed that will be supportive of local business by developing thresholds based on project scope.

Current Diplomatic Engagement in Trade

The Jubilee government is currently engage in Africa wide consultations aimed at improving Kenya’s balance of trade with African countries. The IT industry sees this as a perfect opportunity to position Kenya is an exporter of IT and IT enabled services in Africa.  We request that the IT industry be included in the current engagement, and that it be invited in future presidential and diplomatic visits.


Vision 2030 and the Knowledge based Economy

IT and IT enabled services are key part of Vision 2030. The IT industry will develop, identify and position local IT flag carriers that will form the cornerstone of the knowledge economy of Africa.   The IT industry will also identify and develop IT solutions for government processes that will become e- government flag carriers.  These flag carriers will form part of the 100 top IT companies creating at least 50,000 jobs.  The investment promotion policy in Kenya generally provides specific incentives for foreign investors who promise to create jobs in the country.  The IT industry requests that incentives, including tax incentives, be put in place for IT and IT enabled services.  These incentives will include promoting research and development, development of IT intellectual property and export of IT and enabled services.

Private Public Partnership

When selecting projects that need to be implemented at a County and National level PPP must be looked at with preference for local companies. There is need to have a strategic view on developing intellectual property; local capacity; and employment, through a harmonised procurement process that takes into consideration local companies.  In a PPP a substantive local component must be utilised in tandem with Vision 2030 identified companies.

SME and Research and Development Funds

The government is in the process of creating the National Research fund, the Universal service fund and Kenya National Innovation Agency. We request that 50% of the funds are invested in R&D focusing on the Vision 2030 IT and Knowledge Economy agenda.  Currently in Kenya the venture capital market is very low. Private equity and Government funds are the main sources of funding which are not very suitable for SME development. We request that the above funds are ring-fenced into a venture capital knowledge fund for job creation and growth of intellectual property. The government will be a major investor in the Venture Capital Knowledge Fund and the industry will be matched Shilling for Shilling by venture capital investors in order to grow the research and development IT SME industry.  All existing and new SME funds should be run on Venture Capital principles.”